April 2020

It’s been an April like no other. The pandemic has brought minor and major changes to everyone’s life.

We, living on a dirt road in Maine, feel fortunate to be able to get out, walk through our woods, get exercise, and enjoy the outdoors. Spring is slowly arriving here, and we’re grateful. The month did start with a snowfall.

The snow didn’t last long and the early snowdrops came up on time. The heavy, wet snow did manage to break off one section of a large white pine behind the house. It took a whole day of chainsaw work to cut up the larger pieces and haul off the branches.

Despite the setbacks, I did manage to get some work done in and around the shop. I started working on a new, smaller toolbox, and decided to weed out my seldom used tools. They all sold as one batch: saws, planes, chisels, files, drills, layout tools and an assortment of odds and ends.

In the attic I got down another box of my book, “The Shaker Legacy,” which is selling briskly. I still have another box upstairs. The books are signed, and come with a laser engraved cherry bookmark.

Between all the unexpected chores and happenings, I did manage to make a Shaker cherry lap desk. It is such a clever object, with its dovetailed corners, hinged lid, dividers, and best of all the tiny full-extension ink drawer.

Hoping for better times in the coming months.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2020

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March 2020

March started out like a normal month, and deteriorated with the pandemic. I’m fortunate to be working at home, in my shop right behind the house. We do enjoy our isolation on this dirt road, especially walks through the woods.

We’ve had a few snows this month, nothing of note, but just enough to cover the gray, and muddy piles along the roads and our driveway.

However, spring is on the way here in Maine. The last few days have been a bit warmer and the snow is rapidly disappearing. Daffodils are sending up green shoots, and the early crocuses are out.

Thee was not too much going on in the shop. I made a lamp and a large wall mirror. the mirror was interesting, since all four edges were curved. Cutting two rabbets into the frame was a challenge. The first rabbet, to house the glass was no problem with a bearing bit. the second, much wider cut to accommodate the plywood back, required a special curved fence on the router table.

For the last few days I’ve been working on a new tool box, about 1/3 smaller than the present one. It takes a while to layout and plan the layout to maximize space and location of all the tools. Those tools not in use for the last few years will have to find a new home.

The box is made of soft maple, with asymmetrical doors. Interesting. Believe it or not, the various tool fixtures, hangers, shelves and drawers take much more time than the actual case and doors.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2020

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February 2020

I took it a bit easier this month. We had our fair share of snow storms as well as a few days of rain and mud. Living on a dirt road has its challenges, and benefits.

For the most part it was mostly pleasant. I still enjoy my daily walks in the woods.

In the shop I finished the two Haystack side chairs. These were a bit different in that the customer wanted birds eye maple rails to go with the cherry legs and back. That, along with black walnut pins, makes a most attractive combination, one I’ve never tried before.

After the chairs, there were a series of smaller pieces. First, a cherry swinging arm wall lamp. Ready for packing.

Next up, a dovetailed presentation box, native white pine, with a 12″ x 18″ replica of the original State of Maine flag. 2020 is Maine’s bicentennial. Happy Birthday Maine!

Lastly, I finally got around to making a small cabinet for my assorted collection of drill bits. They had been scattered in various locations, were not easy to find, and in some cases I had two or more of the same size. The cabinet was made of scrap wood; ash case, Baltic birch ply back and door panels, cherry shelves, sassafras door frames and apple knobs. All bits, indexes, and tenon cutters are now in one central location.

Life is so much easier when you’re organized.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2020

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January 2020

Cold and busy describes January 2020. We had two snowstorms, nothing overwhelming, but enough to eat up two mornings clearing the driveway.

As usual, I take daily walks through the woods to start (and sometimes end) the day. The path along the lower stone wall is one of my favorite areas to walk, explore and observe.

Last fall, New Gloucester got its very own brewery, NU. They had a mid month ice bar which was quite popular. There were several ice sculptures, as well as some really cold beer.

In the shop, I had a two day photo shoot for an upcoming article in Fine Woodworking magazine. This time it will be the wall shelf with the suspended drawers. Looking forward to seeing it in print. I haven’t decided what to use for knobs yet.

I’m also working on four Haystack chairs, to arm chairs and two side chairs. It takes a fair amount of concentration to keep the the parts straight.

In addition, the seats need to be glued up, over a form. I use six pieces of 1/8″ bending plywood, a few sheets of plastic, and many band clamps.

The hand sanding is the most boring and time consuming part of chair construction. Since these chairs are in my catalog, they are made in multiples and require several jigs to make the work more consistent. After the padded leather seats come back from the upholsterer, and the frames are oiled, the completed chairs are rather comfy, and invite you to sit and enjoy. The armchairs are done, while the side chairs should be finished the first week in February.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2020

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December 2019

Another year gone by. Each seems to pass a bit faster. This being my 70th, it really flew. However, it was a pretty good year and a very good month.

Ever since I can remember, the Sabbathday Lake Shakers have had their annual Christmas Fair the first Saturday in December. This year was bright, chilly and breezy. The fair was, as usual, extremely well attended.

In the shop, I had two projects that were rather small but labor intensive. Several years ago I bought a box full of small, wood drawers at the Union Antique Fair. They’ve been sitting around gathering dust, waiting to be put to use. I finally decided to give them a home, building a case to house them. It took a while to come up with the correct layout, and I ended up having to make a few new drawers. There is nothing more challenging than making a case for existing drawers. The dividers between some are of different dimensions to accommodate the various sizes. The fronts are all of quarter sawn cherry.

Another project was a small toolbox, made of scraps of soft maple, white pine, ash and birds eye maple. It has several layers, sliding trays and movable dividers. Another small but detailed project.

In our free time, we made a few trips to Portland, for shopping, entertainment and to see the decorations.

We alos took a side trip to Popham Beach. The beach is overrun in the summer but wonderfully deserted in December. Scenic and peaceful.

Weather wise, winter arrived on the 21st and we got our first real snow on the 30th. Two days worth of steady snow, for a total of about 13″.

All in all, a good year and a wonderful month. Best wishes to all for a peaceful, successful, and healthy 2020.

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November 2019

November, like March, is one of those months that I could do without. Not much going on outside. It’s that time between the colors of fall and the white stillness of winter. So far, no major snowstorms, just cold, melting, more cold, mud or dust on the road. Frost crystals up close on some of the plants look look like fur.

The pond up the road is frozen, but not yet thick enough to skate on.

November is the time of year when I try to show my appreciation to my customers of the past year, by sending them each a Maine balsam fir wreath.

In the shop, I had several small projects, as well as one I’ve been putting off for decades. In 1974 I made a walnut and marble coffee table, which had a rather rickety base. I finally found some time to properly re-build the base, with slightly thicker legs and rails, and wider braces with through tenons. It’s amazing what 45 years of experience can teach you.

Besides a few thank you items, I made another round stand, the one with the wine bottle shaped post.

I think I’ve made over thirty of these stands. There are two that I make on a regular basis, that to me typify the essence of Shaker understated design and function. True classics.

We also made a trip up to Ellsworth, ME to take the last Snow Glider© to the KoT Gallery. It sits in the window as a really nice seasonal window display. Need a limited edition Snow Glider© for the kids or grandkids? Contact KoT Gallery.

That’s it for this month. Be sure to check out my Instagram site, for fun little bits and pieces that don’t make it into the blog.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2019

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October 2019

Another busy month when almost nothing got done. I guess when you’re 70 you can slow down. October started with parts for a bed, and several Shaker peg boards.

The Maine craft weekend was early this month, October 5 & 6. It was quite successful, and well attended. Had many friends and fans stop by, to visit, enjoy the cookies, doughnuts and cider, and check out the shop and showroom. Sold a few pieces as well. One of the thrills was the poster from the last Fine Woodworking Live on my shop door.

The following weekend, was the Harvest Festival at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community. It’s always great fun, and despite the chilly weather the attendance was great. Hard to find a parking spot along the road. My setup was in the Shaker barn.

Fall is definitely on the way. Over the years I’ve planted a few shagbark hickories and black walnut trees, and the tallest on is now almost 20 ft. tall.

We did take a few days off to enjoy fall here in Maine. It is my favorite season. Hiked around Wolf’s Neck State Park,

and Bradbury Mountain State Park. The view from up there is spectacular. You can see the Atlantic on a clear day.

Later this month we had Friends of the Shakers work weekend. We raked, cleaned, put things away for the winter, repaired and a multitude of other chores. Also a wonderful lunch, and a chance to catch up with folks I meet but once or twice a year. Consider joining the group if you’re so inclined.

In the shop I finally completed the king size bed I started at the beginning of the month. A three week cold had me slow down to the point where a 40 hour bed ended up taking 4 weeks.

Hopefully things will pick up next month. Don’t forget to check my Instagram page, for more ongoing photos.

Also, I’m trying to make a bit more space in the showroom, so I have several pieces at half price on the Specials page of my website. If you’ve ever wanted a Becksvoort piece, this might be the right time.

C. H. Becksvoort ©2019

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September 2019

Fall is definitely here. September is a month of change. We had our first frost on the 19th. Ash trees are loosing their leaves, red maples are in full color, sugar maples are just starting to turn, and the lovely New England asters are in full bloom.

It has been an amazing month for monarch butterflies. We were out recently in an open field with perhaps 1/8 acre of milkweeds. One plant had 4 monarch caterpillars on it and at any one time there were 3 or 4 butterflies in the air. More monarchs than I’ve seen in years. Good luck on the trip to Mexico.

We took our annual vacation on the coast of Maine, mostly in Trenton and Acadia National Park.

One of the highlights was a long walk around Jordan Pond ( after indulging in popovers), along the wooden plank walk. The shoreline is fragile, and Jordan Pond is a water supply, hence the board walk to keep erosion to a minimum.

We also took a side trip to Lamoine State Park, and to the farther side of Acadia, at Schoodic. Schoodic is much less crowded and extremely scenic, with waves crashing on the pink granite. Took side trips to Lubec, and spent a fair amount of time in Ellsworth, a lovely town, once you get off of Route 1

Although September was extremely busy, I don’t have much to show for it. Between working on my son’s house, my daughter’s house, my sister’s house, and our house, I only managed two projects in the shop: a custom wedding gift

…and a custom display case for the New Gloucester Historical Society.

Hopefully, next month will be more productive, furniture wise.

Don’t forget our annual Open House & Studio on October 5 & 6, from 10 am until 4 pm. The will be a book signing (Shaker Inspiration: Five decades of Fine Craftsmanship), tools, wood and a few pieces of furniture (at reduced prices). Also cookies, doughnuts and cider. Stop by to chat and visit. All are welcome.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2019

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August 2019

August in Maine. Summer is winding down. It’s been real busy. Word is leaking out that I’m considering retirement. True, but… not this year. Maybe next, or the year after. Time to get your order in, the one you’ve been thinking about for the last few years. Be forewarned that I’m no longer building big cases, only taking orders for smaller items. Here are a few examples of what went out of the shop this past month: First a series of five pen & ink drawings my daughter did for the book With The Grain, each tree framed with the wood of that species.

I made a cherry music stand, VII, with the customer’s favorite verse laser engraved (too small to see in the photos).

I’m currently working on a king size low post bed, with nice egg turnings on the top of each post.

Lastly, I finally had the slant top desk dyed and finished by Jon Brandon at East Point Conservation Studio in Brunswick. An amazing job, just look a that tiger strip maple. The brass hardware is from Horton Brasses.

Around the shop this month, I noticed that the red efts were on the move, crossing our dirt road, and looking for places to spend the winter. This little one was only about 1 1/4″ (3.2 cm) long

In our fields and along the road, the early asters and black eyed Susans are in full bloom. Just waiting for the fall asters to make an appearance.

You can see more everyday photos on my Instagram page. Have a look.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2019

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July 2019

July was one hot month. The rains stopped and the humidity moved in. Summer is in full swing.

In the garden the peonies have gone by and the clematis is in blooming.

In the fields and woods, the black eyed Susans, golden rods and pyrola are in putting on a display.

We did take a few day off for vacations. The first was a one day trip to Swan Island in the Kennebec river. It is a state park, about 4 miles long, and at one time had about 100 residents.

The following weekend we took a trip to Lubec, the easternmost town in the U.S. A most relaxing and enjoyable time. We had our passports and took the bridge to Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada. Had lunch overlooking the water.

My belt sander article made an appearance in Fine Woodworking magazine. It looks great, as usual. Thanks AK and FWW.

July is also the time for Open Farm Day in Maine. As usual, I was at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village, demonstrating and selling books & DVDs. Lots of wonderful people attended, and we had a marvelous time despite the heat.

In the shop, I actually got some work done. A few small projects; a candle holder, and I repaired a yarn winder.

The big project was the slant top desk in tiger maple. It took just over 180 hours. Not one of my biggest pieces, but quite involved with 4 large drawers, 3 medium drawers, 6 tiny drawers, two document drawers 6 pigeon holes, secret compartments, 3 locks and a full assortment of brass hardware.

The desk is now at the finisher’s shop, waiting to be dyed. The customer has chosen the lightest finish on the left. It took a week but the lid hinges finally showed up, so I could complete the desk.

I’ll have a final photo next month with the new finish and all the hardware.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2019

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